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Philippe IV the Beautiful one
Fontainebleau, 1268 - id., 1314
© Hachette Livre et/ou Hachette Multimédia

Philippe IV the Beautiful one

King de France of 1285 to 1314

King de France of 1285 to 1314, Philippe IV is a little known king, whose political, badly interpreted acts or today badly explained, surprise. Centralization, bureaucratization, assertion of the reason of State mark the reign of Philippe the Beautiful one.

In 1314, an aristocratic reaction, animated by the “leagues peerage-books”, will start against the encroachments of royal justice. A scapegoat, Enguerrand de Marigny, the Almighty in the last years, are sacrificed. That one is not mistaken there: nothing will be changed with the methods of government: the experiments of the time of Philippe the Beautiful one will be taken again and developed by Valois.

Towards royal sovereignty

Its contemporaries, conscious of the singularity of the reign, raised the difference in atmosphere between time of Philippe the Beautiful one and that of “good king” Saint Louis. Philippe the Beautiful one was not very expansive (Bernard Saisset, the bishop of Pamiers, said of him that it was “like the large duke, a beautiful bird who does not speak”) and they tended naturally to make advisers of the king, the famous legists, the persons in charge of the royal policy. They were undoubtedly mistaken, the king having inspired this one. But, by doing this, they became aware of a fundamental fact: the passage of feudal monarchy to territorial and administrative monarchy.  

The increase amongst royal officers, the bureaucratization of the administration constitute the most outstanding sign of it. By there, the French royalty endeavors to give itself the means of its policy: establishment of the sovereignty of the king, so much inside that outside the kingdom. Such is the main idea of an often disconcerting reign, but which, seen kind, appears less singular, because it falls under an evolution started as of Saint Louis.  

Interior matters

Philippe the Beautiful one increased the royal field of Lyon, Barrois, of Lille, and prepared the annexation of Champagne by his marriage with Jeanne de Navarre (the country cottages and of Navarre were plain since the marriage, in 1195, of Thibaud de Champagne and White of Navarre, single heiress of its father Sanche VI, king de Navarre).  

The tender of the strongholds
Philippe the Beautiful one reduced the margin of autonomy of the strongholds by subjecting them to controls royal justice. Especially, it conducted various military campaigns to make fully recognize its sovereignty on two strongholds which them political situation and economic tended to move away from the kingdom: Guyenne and Flandres.   The king of England, Master of Guyenne, pays with bad grace the homage which it owes, as vassal, with king de France, and refuses the interventions and the strong pressures of the agents of king de France in his stronghold.  

The business of Flanders
The conflict degenerates into war (1294-1297), without convincing result for Philippe IV. The county of Flandres depends more and more on England, which provides him wool necessary to its industry. The social struggles which mark its history at the end of the XIII E century accompany by the formation of a party antifrançais. Until the end of his reign, Philippe conducts hard military campaigns to subject the Flemish cities: serious failures (demolished of Courtrai in 1302), compensated by nondecisive successes, make it possible to lead only to poor compromises. In Flandres as in Guyenne, the problems arising cannot be regulated.

The conflict with papacy

On plan external (still that the interior matters had a “European” dimension which exceeded the limits of the kingdom), the conflict with papacy is the major fact of the reign. The Germanic Empire having been cut down, the kingdom of France, which is the most powerful State of Occident, is directly confronted with the theocratic claims of the pope Boniface VIII, which always affirms the superiority of the spiritual power that it represents on all the spiritual powers but so laic.  

Opposition of Boniface VIII
The conflict starts in 1296, when Philippe IV decides to do without the authorization of the pontiff to use with his profit the taxation raised by the pontifical collectors of the French clergy. It festers when Philippe, excommunicated but acting for the defense of the faith (he is not king by the grace of God!), fact call to the council to consider the pope, marked of heresy. He reaches an extreme violence when in 1303 Guillaume de Nogaret, the most influential adviser of Philippe, Boniface VIII in its residence of Anagni stops; it is the attack of Anagni. The pope dies about it shortly after. The king of France will have of cease to obtain later pontiffs only they condemn the memory of Boniface VIII.  

The arrest of the Templars
In 1307, Philippe launches a new scathing attack by ordering the arrest, with no regard for prerogatives of the pope, the monk-soldiers of the Temple. It is necessary to bind this episode strapping and badly elucidated to the precedent: in his fight against Boniface VIII as in the business of the Temple, Philippe presented himself as a true defender of the faith and the Church against those which soil it by their vices or their heresy: the pope, Templars. Philippe the Beautiful one did not achieve his goals completely: there was no council and Boniface was not condemned. But the order of the Temple was removed and pontifical theocracy died of the blows that it struck to him. Vis-a-vis powers, to the universal claims, which are in complete failure (Empire, papacy), the king of France can say that he is “emperor in his kingdom”, i.e. completely independent and fully sovereign.  

Financial problems of the reign

The wars and the royal diplomacy are expensive. However, the ordinary resources of the king, namely the incomes of the field, are not enough. Philippe thus sought other financial means. He tried to establish on his subjects a regular taxation; for this reason, in particular, he convened assemblies where the representatives of the cities sat at the sides of the barons and the clerks to give their assent to the lifting of subsidies: they are the first assembled of states of the kingdom. Philippe failed, because the royal bureaucracy could not, for lack of precise demographic information, to establish a viable tax base.  

Let us reconsider one moment the lawsuit of the Templars: one explained the drama by the only reason of the needs for money of the king, who would have continued this order, fabulously rich, one said, to adapt his goods. Even if such were the goal of the king, it had to be extremely disappointed result. The seizure on the ten-per-cent taxes raised by papacy on the clergy got considerable but insufficient resources. In the event of distress, one could always hope to draw some money from the traditional scapegoats: Jews and usurers of all kinds, those which one calls the cahorsins or the Lombardic ones: expulsion, confiscation of goods, then recall after financial composition.  

Monetary changes
Philippe the Beautiful one and his advisers innovated while speculating in the value of the currency. These monetary “changes” present two aspects. King can to change value coins into circulation (let us recall that they do not comprise any quantified indication), thus modifying the relationship between real currency and money of account. But, and it is the most frequent case, the king can decide to withdraw the coins in circulation and to replace them by news, from which the weights and the composition are different (the proportion of noble metal is modified): the king, who has the monopoly of striking, touches on each coin a right; the multiplication of the monetary emissions inserts of the fresh money in the royal cases. In one or the other case, the operation involves devaluation or revaluation.

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